Summertime in Dalmatia

Old Jul 10th, 2021, 12:08 PM
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Summertime in Dalmatia

Four of us are spending two weeks this July in Croatia and Montenegro. We are concentrating our time along the Dalmatian Coast and around the Bay of Kotor. Our itinerary begins in Split. We will make our way down by ferry from Split to the island of Hvar and then onward to Korcula. From Korcula, we will return to the mainland and go to Dubrovnik via the Peljesac Peninsula. From Dubrovnik we will cross the Croatian-Montenegro border and go to Kotor. We will return to Croatia for a final night in Cavtat before heading home.

Why Croatia?

We typically plan our spring trip in the beginning of the year or even towards the end of the prior year. With the COVID-19 pandemic, we were not in a position to lock ourselves in several months in advance. It was around March that we gave serious thought to any trip. We selected a handful of destinations and began planning, not knowing which if any would pan out. By April, we had thrown out options outside of Europe and concentrated on Switzerland, Norway, Scotland, Greece, Malta, and Croatia. We eventually settled on Croatia as:

1. It was open to Americans for non-essential travel;
2. We could enter with vaccinations or testing;
3. The epidemiological trend was moving in the right direction; and
4. Places that we would visit were fairly open.

Given the limited amount of time we would have, we chose to focus our itinerary on a small portion of the country. Dubrovnik was a must for us and we were attracted to Split given its history and our general like of urban areas. Plitvice interests me as does Istria, but we would be aiming for too much on a limited time. Besides, Slovenia was off limits (at least at the time of our planning) so we set aside those parts of Croatia for a future visit. We were not sure if we would venture across the border to either Bosnia or Montenegro, but ultimately chose Montenegro for the Bay of Kotor as well as the fact that it was open to Americans and we could get a healthy look with just a couple of nights.

Timing

As I mentioned earlier, we usually take a trip in the spring, typically around May. Even if we traveled in the summer, we've largely stayed away from European city centers given the crowds. We knew this year would be different. And there was the added bonus that the places we would visit wouldn't be inundated by cruise ship crowds. So we decided to go for it.

Travel in the time of COVID

I understand that levels of comfort vary greatly during these times. Some are ready to travel and others aren't. Some prefer to stay close to home while others venture further. To me, there is no right or wrong and I am not qualified to be the judge of others. For us, we traveled internationally to Egypt back in Nov. and Dec. of last year and thoroughly enjoyed our experiences travelling during a quiet time. And for personal and work reasons a couple of us have traveled domestically within the United States on a few different occasions since last March.

Regardless of where on the spectrum you fall, I hope I am able to share some of my experiences with you. Let's go.
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Old Jul 10th, 2021, 07:53 PM
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Looking forward to your TR!
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Old Jul 10th, 2021, 09:25 PM
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Travel Logistics

Our itinerary had us travelling from Washington, DC, to Split, Croatia, via Philadelphia, Amsterdam, and Zagreb. We booked our flights via American although the last two legs were operated by Croatia Airlines. This meant we had to stay up-to-date on entry requirements for Croatia as well as for the Netherlands.

When we made our reservations in May, the Netherlands required a PCR test at least 72 hours prior to arrival. By June 24, the entry requirements changed and all Americans were allowed to enter. Croatia has welcomed Americans for a couple of months now but requires proof of paid accommodations.

Each country also had entry forms we had to fill out. The form for the Netherlands was straightforward and took minutes to complete and print out. The form for Croatia was not so easy. We were required to enter our passport information, upload proof of vaccination or test, and provide information on our accommodations. The site for Croatia was very buggy. Icould not save our information and had trouble submitting it. I worked on form on five separate occasions throughout the day before I was able to successfully submit it. I completed the form for Croatia a week before we were scheduled to travel.

The day before we traveled, we went to our local CVS for antigen tests. As we are vaccinated we were not required to get tested. We went to get tested in case day-of-travel flight changes required us to change our itinerary; as some European countries required tests (e.g. the UK) we wanted to have as many options as possible.

The testing was straightforward. We arrived a bit early but were received right away. Typically the results of the antigen tests come quickly. The nurse who administered our tests let us know the results would be ready in an hour. Well, we didn't. After about three hours, I contacted them but nobody was available to answer me. I tried again the next morning but again no results. It was not until around noon that we received our results, even though we tested at around 5:30 PM the day prior.

Armed with passports, vaccination cards and certificates (Maryland issues one), negative test results, entry forms, and accommodation confirmations, we headed to Washington, DC's National Airport.

The Trip Across the Pond

Our American Airlines flight from DCA to Philadelphia was delayed by afternoon thunderstorms. We initially were not too concerned. This soon changed as the plane had a mechanical issue just as we were about to close the doors. Further delays. Armed with other flight options from research earlier in the week, I worked with the gate agent to rebook us on a later British Airways flight from Dulles to London and from London a Croatia Airlines flight from London to Split. As we were finalized we were informed that the original flight to Philadelphia was ready for takeoff. We hopped back on the plane and off we went.

It took all of 30 minutes to fly from DC to Philadelphia so we gained back some time. But it was not enough. When we touched down in Philadelphia, we were not parked close enough to the gate and needed to wait for a driver to tow us in. And then the wait for the jet bridge operator seemed to take forever. What was originally a two-hour connection shrunk to one hour because of weather to 30 minutes because of the mechanical issue. By now, we had less than 10 minutes. We exited the plane 2 to 3 minutes before our scheduled departure from Philadelphia to Amsterdam.

When we arrived at the gate, we were informed that we were too late. We watched the jet bridge be retracted. Fortunately for us, the powers above smiled down on our situation. Weather delayed the aircraft's departure. And a gate manager that heard our and another group of passengers' pleas asked the jet bridge operator to reconnect the walkway to the plane. Our passports were scanned, new boarding passes issued, and we were welcomed aboard. What a start!

Other than passports and boarding passes, none of our other documents were checked. Nobody asked about tests or vaccinations, perhaps because it was not necessary for Americans going to the Netherlands. They did not ask us about any of the documents necessary for Croatia. Could be because we were late, but who knows.

The aircraft that carried us to Amsterdam was a Boeing 787. We took our seats and settled in. Our premium economy seats were comfortable. We were served warm - and actually tasty - meals about 45 minutes into the flight. In addition to us, there were three other people in our cabin. Business had a handful of passengers and there were no more than a couple of dozen in economy. We made up time en route and arrived about 20 minutes after the scheduled time. We were not asked to show anything upon landing at Schiphol.

We had a couple of hours to rest at Schiphol before boarding our very full flight from Amsterdam to Zagreb. Other than passports and boarding passes, we were not asked for any other documentation.

We arrived in Zagreb about half an hour late. At this point we were chilling as we knew we had plenty of time until our final leg to Split. We went through immigration at Zagreb Airport. The officer reviewed and stamped our passports as usual. In addition he asked to see either proof of vaccination or a negative test. No other documentation was asked for nor provided.

Our flight from Zagreb to Split was uneventful. The approach to Split Airport, however, was spectacular. Catching glimpses of the urban coastline with red-tiled roof buildings dotting the landscape, the deep blue Adriatic, and the backdrop of the Dinaric Alps was definitely memorable. The feast for the eyes followed us from the airport into Split's Old Town.

Our home for the next three nights is the Judita Palace, located in People's Square, known locally as the Pjaca (pronounced Piazza).
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Old Jul 11th, 2021, 01:00 PM
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Passeggiata in Split

Our visit to Split began as we do every trip - a leisurely stroll in the area around our hotel or a particular neighborhood. Judita Palace is located in the heart of the pedestrian old town just to the west of the Iron Gate entrance into Diocletian's Palace. Passing under the Iron Gate we immediate came upon Peristyle Square with Diocletian's Mausoleum turned Cathedral of St. Domnius. From here we continued east and through the Silver Gate. Just a block away is the waterfront promenade or Riva. The promenade is made for great people watching and looking at the ships go by in the harbor. We followed our walk with a delicious seafood dinner at Nostromo just off Republic Square. We went back to the Riva to walk off some of our meal. By now it was nightfall and the streets came to life with locals and tourists alike enjoying the evening breeze. As the Split Festival was going on, there were a couple of stages with live music playing. A very nice way to cap off our introduction to the seaside city.

Past and Panorama

Our day began with a simple breakfast at our hotel followed by several hours of play inside the walls of Diocletian's former palace. We entered the palace through the Brass Gate or the southern gate just outside of the Riva promenade. The Brass Gate leads to an underground corridor full of souvenir shops. This used to be the basement of the palace. At the end of the corridor and up the stairs is Peristyle Square and the Cathedral of St. Domnius. As today is Sunday, the Cathedral does not open to visitors until noon. Too early for any of the paid sightseeing we walked through the nearby farmers market. From there we made our way to the Split City Museum. The museum was small but worthwhile for a good overview of the history of the city. After visiting the museum we made our way back to the underground passageway and toured the cellars. While bare the cellars gave us a good idea of the size and scale of the palace structures. From the cellar we went up to the vestibule and walked around some of the palace ruins. By now it was 11:30, and perfect for a glass of Viennese ice coffee at Luxor overlooking at the Cathedral.

The Cathedral complex opened at noon and we were among the first in line for tickets. A visit to the treasury museum was followed by the Cathedral itself. A bit of history - the Cathedral began as a mausoleum to the Roman emperor Diocletian, a persecutor of Christians, but evolved into a Catholic church after Christianity began the official religion of room. The altar centerpiece is stunning.

Adjacent to the Cathedral is the Venetian-style bell tower added in the 12th century. The bell tower was a fun visit. The climb is easy and the views on the top up are stunning. We spent a good half hour at the top just drinking in all of it - the buildings with the red, terra cotta tiled roofs, the harbor, the blue Adriatic, and the Dinaric Alps behind the city.

From the bell tower we stopped by the baptistry, formerly a temple to Jupiter, for a quick look. Lunch came next. We settled for pizzas at Pizzeria Portas near the Golden Gate, the main northern entrance to the palace - a good choice. We did some souvenir shopping and people watching before heading to our hotel for cold showers and rest.

Marjan Hill, the highest point in Split, was on our agenda for the mid-afternoon. Gelatos in hand, we walked through the quaint Varos neighborhood and up the hill. The walk was easy on paved stone paths and staircases. Today was a hot day but there are plenty of trees for breaks in the shade. From the top we could see the harbor area and the northern parts of Split all the way towards Trogir.

Dinner was at Bajamonti on Republic Square, patterned after St. Mark's Square in Venice. Speaking of the historic maritime power, reminders of Venetian rule could be found throughout town with its winged lion symbol. A stroll along the River capped yet another successful day.

Our good impressions of Croatia's second largest city and the Dalmatia regions largest were confirmed throughout the day. The atmosphere around the city is excellent. We very much savored our strolls along the historic lanes, finding interesting shops throughout the old town and inviting restaurants and coffeehouses everywhere we looked. There were some crowds from place to place, but easy to escape with just a few yards away. There's definitely joie de vie in the air.

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Old Jul 12th, 2021, 02:21 PM
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Day Trip to Salona and Trogir

Today we took a day trip out of Split. There are numerous options for day trips, enough that one could spend a full week touring the city and taking day trips to nearby destinations and even the islands. The islands are already on our agenda for this trip so those were off the list. Swimming isn't our thing and we will have opportunities to visit beaches on other parts of the trip. So we decided to visit the ancient Roman ruins at Salona, the capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia and the birthplace of Emperor Diocletian, as well as the picture-perfect island town of Trogir across the bay from Split.

Following breakfast at our hotel we traveled by city bus (number 1 at HNK, just a couple of blocks off the Piazza, 13 Croatian kunas a person, about 20 minutes) to Salona (also known as Solin in Croatian). The site is smaller and less impressive than blockbuster Roman ruins such as those in Rome and other cities such as Jerash, but worth a short visit if you are into ancient history and architecture and headed in this direction. The main sites at Salona still in good condition are the basilica, the Episcopalian center, and the amphitheater. Visitors were few so there were plenty of opportunities to wander among the ruins. There are paths that lead to vineyards that remain in use today. Also on the site are plenty of olive and fig trees. We spent just under 2 hours on our visit to Salona.

From Salona, we exited the amphitheater (we entered via the basilica) and made our way a few yards to the nearest bus station. Here we hopped on another city bus bound for Trogir (number 37, 17 kunas a person, about 45 minutes). Trogir is on a small island reached via pedestrian bridges on both its north and south sides. We approach from the north. The bridge was just in front of us as we exited the bus station. The centerpiece on the island, and where we were headed, is the massive Cathedral of St. Lawrence complete with its own Venetian-style bell tower. The Cathedral is simpler than its sibling in Split, but the front entrance is stunning. The bell tower climb is always a fun activity for us and this one was no different. From the top we could see the entire island. Back on terra ferma, we walked around the main town square and saw the clock tower, town loggia, and town hall. We then took a brief stroll along the town's narrow alleyways before making our way to the far rest of the island, to Kamerlengo Fortress. The fortress made for a quick visit. Three hours is enough for a good look, although we had almost five, which was more than we needed even with a light lunch and a gelato break. Nonetheless, wandering the streets and strolling the waterfront promenade made for taking it all in at vacation pace.

We could have returned from Trogir to split via city bus or even by taxi, but we chose to travel by water, on a boat. The ferry was a nice way to travel. We enjoyed sailing past homes, churches, and other landmarks we passed by bus along the way. The weather was warm and there was a gentle breeze on the outside deck, which made the journey even more enjoyable. Sailing into Split harbor was definitely memorable.

For dinner tonight we dined at Bokeria, arguably one of the most popular dining establishments in town. The food lived up to its fame and hype; everything we ordered was delicious. From Bokeria, it was mere yards to our hotel.

Speaking of our hotel, the Judita Palace was built and occupied by nobility in the 1500s. The place holds 10 hotel rooms and one family suite. We took the family suite, which is away from the main lobby area. The rooms are spacious and the beds comfortable. Breakfast is simple but adequate. The room attendants are thorough. And most of all the location cannot be beat, in the heart of the old town just a few steps away from Diocletian's Palace and the Riva waterfront promenade. We booked it through booking.com, as we did for several hotels on this trip.
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Old Jul 12th, 2021, 04:44 PM
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Sounds like you had a great trip, so far!
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Old Jul 12th, 2021, 05:36 PM
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Oh, excellent! A TR by TP! And we are off to Croatia in the fall (May the gods of travel continue to shine on us!) so I’m looking forward to reading about your travels.
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Old Jul 13th, 2021, 09:23 PM
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@joannyc, very much so. We are thoroughly enjoying Croatia. Now that we are here and experiencing it, I am surprised we haven't come sooner.

@progol, here's hoping that things will be where it needs to be for your fall travels. Perhaps you will even benefit from cooler temperatures. It's definitely hotter here than I would prefer (90s and high humidity), but we are adapting with lots of water and gelato breaks.
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Old Jul 13th, 2021, 11:30 PM
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Thanks for posting! Everyone is complaining about the heat… when you get to Kotor, I just discovered the most wonderful little bar. They were suppose to open last year but because of Covid just opened a few weeks ago. It is called The Nitrox, run by a young Turkish couple, he makes beer, they have food and good wine, and it is shady there in the afternoon. I just fell in love with Ipek, one of the owners. If you have some time in Kotor, I suggest a stop! It is very close to the south entrance to the old town. Looking forward to your impressions of Hvar!
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Old Jul 14th, 2021, 03:15 AM
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Am bookmarking this excellent TR. My sister will be on sabbatical from her university job next year and the two of us are planning to spend about 3 months in Europe late spring/early summer. We’re looking at ending with two weeks in Croatia, loads of ideas for us here! Thanks tripplanner, waiting for further installments...
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Old Jul 14th, 2021, 12:19 PM
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@rialtogrl, you're welcome. Thank you for the recommendation in Kotor; I will add to our list. Hvar is our favorite place on this trip so far.

@geetika, thank you. Glad the report may be helpful to you.

Adriatic Gem

Hvar was our next home, for two nights. We had two full days on the island. The first day was devoted to immensely picturesque Hvar town. We employed the services of a guide on the second day for a look at other parts of the island. There are plenty of transportation options to the smaller islands out of the harbor, but it didn't call to us as swimming isn't our thing. If we had more time, we may have taken advantage of a short trip out to the island right in front of the harbor as it piqued our interest and we could see ourselves there, especially if the buildings located on the island were open and worth a look.

After breakfast back in Split, our hotel helped us with our luggage and transported us to the ferry dock. We boarded a catamaran bound for the island of Hvar at 8:10 for an 8:30 departure. Our catamaran is operated by Jadrolinija; the other operator is Krilo. We chose based on the time of sailing. The one-hour trip was smooth sailing. The ferry dock at Hvar is just a short walk from our hotel, Hotel Park Hvar, located at the top of the harbor and next door to the Palace Elisabeth Hotel, a historic landmark.

As our rooms were not ready yet, we dropped off our bags and out again we go. Split was stunning but Hvar even more so. We are at a loss to describe our first impressions. While we've not been to the French Riviera, it is what I imagine it to look and feel like.

The town itself is small but fun to wander and enjoy at a slow pace. Right at the harbor is the Arsenal, built by Venice to build and repair ships. As Hvar was a stopping point between Venice and the Mediterranean, it was an important transportation and commercial place. At the Arsenal is a small theater worth a quick peek. The views from the terrace overlooking the main square is remarkable.

From the Arsenal we visited the Cathedral and the clock tower. In between these two are steps leading up to the fortress that overlooks the town. Lining the Gelso, the main thoroughfare, are the Benedictine Monastery, cafes, galleries, and shops. We made note of those that looked interesting to us for our trip back down from the fortress.

Up we went. Once we reached the end of the Gelso a series of switchbacks led to the fortress. The path is gravel and gentle sloping, making it for an easy walk. Along the way are excellent views of the harbor and Hvar town as well as cactus and herbs on the hillsides. Portions of the town wall are within view along the walk. There are benches to sit and enjoy the surrounding views, which we took advantage of. Even though it was hot in town, it was cooler and breezy at the top. It made for inviting lingering. After we drunk in the views, into the massive stone fort we went. Climbing the steps to the various viewpoints consumed about an hour, including time for a cold drink.

Coming back down we popped into several shops and galleries and made a few purchases. Wooden art depicting scenes of the island were pick up as well as several whimsical pieces from Sosa Gallery. For lunch, we settled into Bunar, located in a narrow lane just steps from the Cathedral. The meal of familiar Dalmatian (think Italian) dishes were among the best we've had so far on this trip.

We took advantage of the beautiful scenery for a walk along the waterfront promenade. From the harbor we made our way east towards the Franciscan Monastery, enjoying vistas of the islands bobbing in the blue Adriatic, pebble beaches, and people sunbathing and swimming. From the monastery we headed back to the harbor and took the promenade west as far as Hula Hula Beach. There were more beachgoers on this side, lounge chairs, drinking establishments, and water toys. A relaxing way to spend the afternoon hours.

Dinner tonight was at Giaxa, also near the Cathedral. We were seated quickly when we arrived by 7:30. By about 8:30 there were waits for tables. The food was good although Bunar was better.

The main square was hopping when we made our way back to our hotel after dinner. Definitely a joie de vivre atmosphere, although I was somewhat surprised by the number of people around (I had expected the numbers to decline as evening fell and the day trippers returned to Split and other islands).

Beyond the Harbor

For our second day on Hvar we hired the services of Sinica Matkovic of Secret Hvar Tours for a look around the island. The tour took us into the backcountry and a couple of small towns around the island.

The tour began at 9:30. We were picked up right off the piazza by Sinica and were driven to Fort Napoleon for its fantastic viewpoint overlooking Hvar town and harbor. There he provided us a good review of the island's history. From there we headed to the village of Malo Grablje, several centuries old but abandoned in recent decades to internal migration into the towns as well as emigration to the Americas and Down Under. Walking through the village we listened to Sinica's account of what life was like back in the days and transported ourselves to those days in our imaginations. We also drove past Velo Grablje, another town being depopulated that was once a lavender producing powerhouse. All along the way we were treated to scenic vistas of the island as well as nearby islands, vineyards, olive groves, and lavender fields.

Lunch was at Konoba Kokot in the tiny village of Dol. We were treated to a traditional Croatian dish called a peka. Pekas combined meats, vegetables, and potatoes within one iron pan and is cooked under a metal dome filled with charcoal underneath and all around the dish. This simple but delicious dish was a highlight of our visit. Included in our meal were local wines, sometime atypical of most tours.

Following lunch we had the choice of visiting nearby beaches or time in a couple of small towns. We chose the latter and visited Vrboska and Stari Grad. Vrboksa is a small but very charming old town build alongside a small canal. Known by locals as the Venice of Hvar, it was a delight to wander its quiet lanes with its churches along the way and boats lining the canal. Stari Grad, formerly Hvar's largest town until the Venetians moved their main trading center to present Hvar Town, was equally as inviting. We wandered its streets and strolled along the waterfront. Before we expected it, it was time to head back into town.

Sinica is a lovely tour guide. He was knowledgeable about the island and was able to share lots of information. Sinica also engaged us in a wide range of topics, from history to the people of the island to modern politics to the local economy. We very much enjoyed our time with him.

Dinner tonight was at Dalmatino, another great dining option, followed by an evening stroll around the harbor.

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Old Jul 15th, 2021, 12:01 AM
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I am so glad you enjoyed Hvar and got out to see a lot of that beautiful island. I thought Kokot was only open for dinner.. maybe Siniša can pull some strings. I am surprised and impressed you found room for dinner after a peka, but glad you went to Dalmatino, it is my favorite restaurant in Hvar. They have the best service of any restaurant I’ve been to in Croatia.
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Old Jul 15th, 2021, 01:31 PM
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@rialtogrl, Dalmatino was definitely a highlight. I agree with you about the service. They are funny too. As for dinner after the peka, we definitely tend to do a lot of walking and hiking when travelling so it may explain it. Our habits at home are very different except on special occasions.

Medieval Marvel

After two short nights on Hvar (we could have easily stayed for a week), it was time to say goodbye to Hotel Park Hvar. The rooms were spacious with sizable living areas and bedrooms. Only the bathroom was on the small side. Our room faced the harbor and we enjoyed waking up to the million-dollar views every morning.

We had a quick breakfast on the hotel terrace and headed to the ferry dock with our luggage. We were on the catamaran operated by Krilo. Between the two, I liked the Jadrolinja catamarans better. It is cleaner and more spacious. In any event, the ferry ride took about an hour; picking the one with the schedule we wanted was more important.

On arrival to Korcula it was a short walk to our hotel on the walls of the old town - the Aminess Korcula Heritage Hotel, better known as Hotel Korcula de la Ville. The rooms are small and the bathroom smaller, but it is clean and functional. Our priority was its old town location.

Our rooms were ready as soon as we arrived, so we were able to freshen up before a full sightseeing agenda. We walked to the Land Gate and were immediately treated to a klapa performance. We loved it and could have listened to it all day. Definitely my type of music. From there we walked down the main street to the town square with its Cathedral of St. Mark, but not before a look at a couple of jewelry shops. The Cathedral is impressive and filled with art. We also climbed the adjacent bell tower for superb views of the town and the surrounding hills and seas. Lunch was at Adio Mare right behind the square - another wonderful meal. Come to think of it, we've not had a bad meal on this trip so far.

We had planned to visit the supposed home of Marco Polo, but it was closed for restoration. We made our way around the city walls out of the old town to visit the Marco Polo Museum but it was closed for afternoon siesta. We spent the remainder of our time wandering the streets, watching the water, and enjoying some gelato.

For dinner we settled on Cupido, along the waterfront on the east side of the city wall. The food was great. After dinner, we circled the town and to the Land Gate, from where we purchased tickets for the moraska dance performance. We enjoyed an open-air performance of dancers in medieval garb enabling a battle from a Croatian story. While the dance was performed through the Mediterranean at one point, today it may only be found on Korcula. In addition to the sword dance, we were treated to several a cappella songs as well as instrumentals. We were transported back in time.
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Old Jul 16th, 2021, 05:55 AM
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How is the "daily life" like over there right now?
Does people wear masks while walking on streets? On public transportation (bus, ferry etc.)?
Does one wear a mask inside a restaurant unless when eating/drinking?
Thanks.
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Old Jul 16th, 2021, 11:09 AM
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@Reading54, life is mostly normal here in Croatia and the pandemic is mostly not on the minds of the people nor reflected in their habits. On the streets, almost nobody wears face masks. Face masks are not the norm in most establishments, from dining to even museums (with the exception of Split City Museum). Service staff probably wore it one-third to one-half of the time, depending on where we were. The only place in which there is high enforcement and compliance on mask wearing is in supermarkets. On the buses in Split, about 75% of the passengers wear masks. On ferries, it is about 50/50. In most indoor establishments, such as supermarkets, museums, and ticket offices, there is plexiglass between the staff member and customers and staff normally wear masks. Distancing is not a thing here either.

Forest and Lakes

Typically on our travels, we include a few slower days to break up our pace. Today was one of those days. We awoke at a later hour, enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, and hopping on a ferry to neighboring Mljet for the day. Our ferry, operated by Krilo, took about half an hour.

Unless Hvar and Korcula, there is no major town on Mjlet. Much of it is national park. We concentrated our visit on the westernmost part of the island. Disembarking at Pomona, we purchased national park tickets just a short walk from the ferry dock. From there we followed the well-marked trail to the small lake. The lake was calm and peaceful on our visit, and the water was a beautiful aqua blue-green color. A short stroll brought us to the larger lake immediately to the west. We continued onward, all of it at a leisurely pace, to Prim, and then to Solice. It took us about two hours to go from Pomona to Solice. We enjoyed a light seafood lunch at one of the restaurants right next to the canal before returning to Prim. From Prim, we caught a ferry to St. Mary's Island, in the middle of the big lake. We wandered around the church and island grounds before ferrying back to the mainland. From there it was an easy walk back to Pomoma and short ferry back to Korcula.

We decided to go with something different for dinner tonight and chose Silk, a pan-Asian place along the old city walls. Good flavors and a mix of large and small portions gave us plenty of choices. After dinner we walked over to our hotel to watch the sunset - a gorgeous end to another beautiful day.
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Old Jul 16th, 2021, 12:35 PM
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Face masks were never required outside in Croatia. They are suppose to be inside public transportation, but, well, uh…

I love Silk! They have restaurants in Hvar and Split too.
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Old Jul 17th, 2021, 12:40 PM
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Wine and Walls

We reluctantly said goodbye to Korcula after our morning breakfast but southern Croatia called us. From Korcula it was a very short ferry ride to Orebic on the Peljasac Peninsula. On the agenda for today was a tour of several wineries before settling in to Hotel Ostrea in Mali Ston for the night.

We arranged our day with Petar Vlasic of Dubrovnik Riviera Tour. Petar met us on the dock upon arrival in Orebic. From there we drove to Villa Korta Katarina. Korta Katarina is owned by an American couple, Penny and Lee Anderson, from Minnesota. The villa, listed on Relais and Chateau, looks like a fortress castle. The setting, on the hillside overlooking the Adriatic, is stunning. The rose was fabulous as well as the Winemakers Collection Plavic Mali. We took a short walk among the vines before continuing on to Matusko, a commercial winery operated by Croatians. We toured the wine cellar of Matusko before tasting several wines. From Matusko we head through the tunnel to the Dingac region of the Peljasac Peninsula. The coastline overlooking the peninsula and Korcula was spectacular.

Lunch was next, at Vitaceae in Trstenik. The food was first class and the views equally beautiful. On our way to our final winery, family-owned and operated boutique winery, Milos, we enjoyed gorgeous views of the vineyards draping down the hillsides and the azure blue of the Adriatic. This is heaven. The wines at Milos were just as good as the ones from Villa Korta Katarina and Matusko. In fact, I would say the wines of the Peljasac Peninsula rank along my favorite wine-tasting experiences in the Franschhoek Valley and the Yarra Valley. Why I had never heard of Croatian wines, I don't know.

We arrived in Mali Ston and our hotel for the night, the Hotel Ostrea, at around 5:00 in the evening. We checked into our rooms, refreshed ourselves, and headed out to tackle the main attraction in town - Ston City Walls. We entered the walls at Mali Ston, scaled up to the top, and made our way down to Ston. The climb involved lots of stone steps. It was strenuous due to the number of steps going up but going down was easy. The entire walk took us about an hour, with many stops along the way. As we reached the top and began our descent, we were treated to fabulous views of Ston and the nearby salt fields. The walls were constructed several centuries ago to protect the valuable salt fields as salt was the precious commodity of its day and was the source of income for the Republic of Ragusa, today's Dubrovnik. Ston sits on the tip of the Peljasac Peninsula, not too far from Ottoman Turkish-controlled Bosnia and Venice-controlled Korcula, another reason for the need for its defenses. Definitely worth it if you have the time.

Dinner tonight was at Kapetanova Kuca, next door to Hotel Ostrea and owned by the same family. The food was fine but not spectacular. We tried the famous macaroni cake for dessert, which was just okay.

Speaking of Ston and the Peljasac Peninsula, it seems that many travelers go from Hvar or Korcula to Dubrovnik or vice versa by ferry, thus missing this beautiful and somewhat still hidden corner of Croatia. If you have one day to spare, even if you do not have time to overnight in Ston or Mali Ston, I would recommend travelling overland from Korcula to Dubrovnik. On a short visit, you could still visit one or two wineries and include a stop in Ston for a visit to the city walls and enjoy fresh seafood before continuing on. It made our experience that much more rich.
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Old Jul 18th, 2021, 12:44 PM
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Pearl of the Adriatic

We awoke to a cloudy but dry Mali Ston. Perhaps the weather gods are looking after us and we won't experience three rainy days in Dubrovnik as forecasted. While Dubrovnik was on our minds, sustenance called. We ate breakfast on our hotel terrace overlooking the bay at Mali Ston. It was very tranquil sitting there with the boats in the harbor with our cups of coffee. Following breakfast we were picked up by one of Petar's colleagues from Dubrovnik Riviera Tours for the one-hour drive to Dubrovnik. We arrived at the western entrance to Dubrovnik's Old Town at around 10 in the morning and headed to our hotel, the Boutique Hotel Stari Grad, a short walk from the Pile Gate. One of the two rooms we booked was ready, which allowed us to freshen up before what we planned to be a full day of sightseeing.

The cloudy skies slowly turned to sun and the crowds along the main street, the Stradun, was not bad we thought. There was one cruise ship in town today, the Viking Venus, which is smaller than the megaships. We saw a couple of tour groups from the Venus along the Stradun along with other tourists, but it is nowhere near what we've seen in Europe elsewhere. We began our tour of the Old Town at the Pile Gate. Entering the gate, we immediately came upon the somewhat Ottoman-looking Onofrio Fountain. Across from it is the Franciscan Monastery and Pharmacy Museum. The Baroque interior of the church was a treat and the adjacent cloister and pharmacy were worth the admission fee. Speaking of admission, we purchased the 3-day Dubrovnik Card as we planned to visit the museums around town as well as take advantage of other discounts. The skies were clear by now also humid (in fact, the weather the entire trip so far is similar to what it is in Washington, DC, at this time of year, so we are acclimated to it even though we prefer cooler and less humidity; significantly better than the predicted all-day rains), which meant a gelato break was in order.

Cooled by the tasty treat, we strolled down the Stradun to Luza Square. We immediately moved toward the Bell Tower and admired it. There seemed to be no way to the top. Next door is Sponza Palace, which we went inside for a look. There are photographs from the Balkan Wars of the 1990s and a discussion of Dubrovnik's role in it. We next headed to the Church of St. Blaise for a look at the interior. We didn't stay long as Sunday Mass was about to start. We would stay for the service but the place was at capacity. Down the street perpendicular to the Stradun we went. The Rector's Palace, home of the rulers of Dubrovnik, was a few short years away. We spent about an hour touring the palace. The most interesting exhibits were the public and residential rooms. There's a hodge podge of other exhibits in the building as well. We also stepped inside the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary for a look before lunch at Bistro Tavulin for some more excellent Croatian seafood.

After lunch we visited the Dominican Monastery and Museum. The cloister is inviting and worth a look. The church itself was unfortunately cleared for restoration. Just on the other side of the wall where the Dominican Monastery stood is the Old Port. We enjoyed some time watching the boats coming in and out of the harbor and some people watching before heading back within the walls. Back at the Cathedral it was a short walk to Gundulic Square and the nearby staircase made famous by Game of Thrones and the Jesuit church on top. After some time watching all the tourists take photos at the landing, we made our way towards Puca Street and headed west, browsing a few interesting shops and visiting the Serbian Orthodox Church. Once we reached the end of the street we made our way north to Prijeko Street and took a stroll along it. From there it was a rest at our hotel before dinner.

Tonight we treated ourselves to dinner at 360 Restaurant, a Michelin-starred establishment. The food was varied and fun to eat. We enjoyed each of our courses as well as the excellent wines on offer. We arrived just before 7:00 for dinner and stayed well past 9:00. The location of the restaurant is on top the city walls and the time we had afforded us the opportunity for breathtaking views of the Old Harbor with the golden color of sunset and the glow of the early evening.

Fulfilled we capped the night off with a stroll along the Stradun back to our hotel, enjoying the monuments lit up against the night sky. What a glorious day!
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Old Jul 18th, 2021, 08:40 PM
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It sounds like an ideal trip! Can't wait to go next year!
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Old Jul 19th, 2021, 12:41 PM
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@joannyc, I hope you will enjoy the trip as much as we do. Croatia's turning out to be one of our favorite all-time destinations.

History and Fortifications

Today was our second of three full days in Dubrovnik. We ate breakfast at the rooftop restaurant of our hotel, and were treated to more magnificent views of the Old Town. The breakfast was simple and not the best value to be honest. In any case, we filled ourselves up and headed to the bell tower at the eastern end of the old city. Steps away is one of three entrances to the city walls. Dubrovnik's Old Town is fully encircled by walls and fortifications and the entire length is open to tourists looking to storm it by foot. Beginning near the Ploce Gate, we completed our anticlockwise circumnavigation in about three hours. We took the walk slowly, enjoying the views, tried to spot landmarks, take photographs, stopped for water, etc. All around us were red, terra cotta-tiled roofs, church domes, high stone walls, ramparts, and towers. The walk was very enjoyable. It helped that the morning was overcast and not unbearably hot. Towards the end of the walk, we popped into the Maritime Museum for a look around. On display were model ships that help tell the story of Dubrovnik's former status as a trade and logistics power in Europe. We began the wall tour at 9:00 and exited just before 1:00.

From the Ploce Gate we walked down the Stradun and out of the Pile Gate to Dubrovska 1836 Restaurant just outside the walls. We enjoyed a light meal overlooking the sea before visiting Fort Lovrejenac. The Fort offered unbelievable views of Dubrovnik's Old Town. We were able to clearly see how the city consisted of two halves at one point and were jointed together by filling the canal that used to run through today's Stradun.

Two additional stops were on our agenda this afternoon: the Red History Museum and War Photo Limited. On a shorter visit we would have omitted it, but here we were. The Red History Museum is located near the city's main bus terminal and cruise point. We arrived there by city bus and a short walk from the nearest bus station. The museum tells the history of Croatia and the former Yugoslavia during Communist times. The museum is very well done and provided us with an almost real-life experience of what things were like at the time as well as the circumstances that led to its rise and fall. This museum is as good as the museum to communism we visited in Berlin three years ago.

War Photo Limited is a collection of photographs taken by journalists during the Balkan Wars of the 1990s. The images recovered what I grew up seeing on television with frequent news coverage of the wars going on in this past of the world. Also vivid is the exhibition on the atrocities faced by the Rohingya people in Burma and neighboring Bangladesh.

Following visits to the two museums we returned to our hotel for some rest before drinks and dinner. We enjoyed pre-dinner drinks at Cafe Bar Bard, better known as one of the two Buza Bars, located on the rocks between the city walls and the Adriatic Sea. Very atmospheric and reminded me of some of our favorite establishments along Sydney's beachfront. Dinner tonight was at Mama Pot's Tavern on Prijeko Street just a block away from the Stradun. The food - meats, seafood, and salads - were all very fresh and tasty. Another very good day in Dubrovnik.
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